- Lengthy safety approval times hobble India's tech industry
- Move to speed clearances follows lobbying by industry
- Initiative aims to cut five to eight weeks from testing time
- India eyes electronics hardware sector worth $300 bln by 2026
NEW DELHI, Sept 2 (Reuters) - India will try out a strategy of parallel testing to speed up safety approvals for new electronic devices, an industry group told Reuters on Friday, a move that could boost device launch plans by the likes of Samsung (005930.KS) and Apple (AAPL.O).
The move comes as India scrambles to remove bottlenecks faced by businesses, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi bullish on an electronics hardware manufacturing industry his government targets to be worth $300 billion by 2026.
The plan to test different components of the devices simultaneously looks set to cut as much as five to eight weeks from the 16 to 21 now often needed to test and certify products ranging from wireless earbuds to smartphones.
"For industry, it is directly linked with ease of doing business; for consumers, this will result in faster access to the latest products," the group, MAIT, said in its statement.
Firms such as Apple, Samsung and Xiaomi (1810.HK) are among its members, along with global and domestic firms operating in India's electronics, telecom and IT sector.
To trim the time required, the group added, the testing agency, the Bureau of Indian Standards, "has agreed to a pilot project where some identified electronics hardware products shall be undergoing parallel testing".
Executives say India's cumbersome testing process can take 16 weeks for a new Apple AirPods model, for example, as the charging case and its components must first secure clearance before the earbuds are assessed.
For a smartphone and its parts, the procedure could take an average of up to 21 weeks.
The pilot decision followed a closed-door meeting on Wednesday between officials of India's information technology ministry, BIS, MAIT and executives of firms such as Apple and Samsung, a source with direct knowledge of the matter said.
Apple, Samsung and Xiaomi did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The BIS and the IT ministry also did not immediately respond to Reuters queries.
Earbuds will be the first devices likely to be put through the faster testing, with the government deciding on other products later, MAIT said.
Swifter safety and quality clearances by the authorities will boost India's competitiveness in electronics, said Prabhu Ram, the head of the Industry Intelligence Group at CyberMedia Research.
"For Indian consumers, this move will significantly shorten the wait time to get their hands on the latest products," added Ram, who advises technology companies in India.
The requirement for safety testing by BIS applies to all electronic products in India, whether imported or domestically made.
The move will come as a shot in the arm for companies such as Xiaomi and Samsung which sell most smartphones in India and have a combined market share of 46%, as well as Apple, which trails Samsung in the premium category, data from research firm Counterpoint shows.
While Indian company boAt leads the market for wireless earbuds in India, Apple is the market leader in premium variants, data showed.
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